In ‘retirement abode’ Pune, city’s elderly find themselves alone and helpless

Anjali Marar

Pune: Workers spray disinfectant in a residential area to contain the spread of coronavirus, at Bavdhan in Pune city, Monday, March 23, 2020. (PTI)

It is only the beginning of the three-week nationwide lockdown, but the elderly in the city -- cut off from all help and too infirm to carry out basic tasks themselves -- are finding it difficult to get by.

For several years, Pune has been known as a 'retirement abode', as it is home to many retired people and elderly families. Many of them are frail and in poor health, and thus completely dependent on domestic helps, cooks and other medical staffers like nurses.

With lockdown orders keeping everyone indoors and public transport services halting completely, many elderly local residents are helpless as their support system – domestic help and nurses, among others – have no means to commute to their residences in the last two days.

A 70-year-old woman in the city, who is a heart-transplant patient, said it is imperative that she live in a clean environment as dust could trigger allergies and affect her already-compromised health.

"My help was beaten up by the police when she was coming to work. I will have to suspend her services for the time being," she said, adding that she has no choice but to manage on her own at her apartment in Salunkhe Vihar.

She also sought clarity from government officials as to how they were planning to offer help to people like her in this hour of crisis.

The Vaidyas, an elderly couple from Aundh, are finding it hard to live a normal life without their caretakers and cook. "Our cook stays close by, but the caretakers complained of difficulties in travelling. We need caretakers round the clock and are fully dependent on them," said Prabhakar Vaidya, whose wife has been ailing for a while.

While the police and local administration plan to roll out some services that could be delivered to their doorsteps, no concrete step has been taken in this regard so far.

Earlier, Pune City Police had issued special WhatsApp numbers for those in distress or requiring permissions or exemptions under essential categories. On Thursday, they issued two new helpline numbers: 9145003100 and 9168003100.

The police also asked representatives of home delivery agents and retail chains to get in touch with the police, who would issue speed delivery passes to them.

But, said Vaidya, "I don't use any e-commerce services and am not very active on WhatsApp. So, I am unaware where to seek help”.

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